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Photo of a worn, whiite boat sitting atop brown earth with a blue sky and cloudsin the background.

Patty Chang, Invocation for a Wandering Lake Part 1 & 2, 2016. Two-channel video, 12 min. Selected by Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas

The lifeless body of a whale floats off the coast of Newfoundland’s Fogo Islands, a former fishing hub. The artist Patty Chang is seen meditatively washing the deceased animal. With similar attention, she scrubs the shell of an abandoned ship in the desert of Muynak, Uzbekistan, a defunct seaport on the receded Aral Sea. These repetitive acts seem almost absurd and unnecessary, as these entities could never return to life. Nevertheless, she continues to perform rituals of care, perhaps as a way to process their fateful ends.

Over the last year, we collectively experienced extreme loss due to the ongoing pandemic. If we are to create new ways of living, perhaps we first need to practice ways of mourning, mending, and contemplating through rituals of care, as the film suggests.

Artist Q&A

Where are you from and how did you become interested in moving image work?

I was born in California, US. I began by working in live performance and when I had access to video cameras, I started using video.

What inspired/influenced you to make the work?

When I was in Newfoundland, I heard there was a beached whale not far from where I was staying. When I saw the whale corpse in the water, I felt very overwhelmed by sadness. I felt that I needed to do something about it and decided I wanted to wash the whale’s body. I bought a sponge and waders at the local department store and went into the cold water to try and wash it. A few years later when I was working near the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, I saw a fishing boat moored in the sand. The sea had shrunk and the boat was in the desert. I felt a similar feeling of loss for the boat and the past and decided to wash it as well.

Biography

Patty Chang (American, b.1972) is a Los Angeles–based artist and educator who uses performance, video, installation, and narrative forms when considering identity, gender, transnationalism, colonial legacies, the environment, large-scale infrastructure projects, and impacted subjectivities. Her work has been exhibited nationwide and internationally at such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; New Museum, New York; M+ Museum, Hong Kong; BAK, Basis voor actuele Kunst, Utrecht; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, England; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Times Museum in Guangzhou, China; and Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. She has received a United States Artist Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, a Creative Capital Fellowship, short listed for the Hugo Boss Prize, a Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Berlin, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and an Anonymous Was a Woman Grant. She teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.